Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Letter
  • Published:

Interhemispheric asymmetry in climate response to a gradual increase of atmospheric CO2


THE transient response of a coupled ocean–atmosphere model to an increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide has been the subject of several studies1–8. The models used in these studies explicitly incorporate the effect of heat transport by ocean currents and are different from the model used by Hansen et al.9. Here we evaluate the climatic influence of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide using a coupled model recently developed at the NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory. The model response exhibits a marked and unexpected interhemispheric asymmetry. In the circumpolar ocean of the Southern Hemisphere, a region of deep vertical mixing, the increase of surface air temperature is very slow. In the Northern Hemisphere of the model, the warming of surface air is faster and increases with latitude, with the exception of the northern North Atlantic, where it is relatively slow because of the weakening of the thermohaline circulation.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Bryan, K., Komro, F. G., Manabe, S. & Spelman, M. J. Science 215, 56–58 (1982).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Spelman, M. J. & Manabe, S. J. geophys. Res. 89, 571–586 (1984).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  3. Bryan, K. & Spelman, M. J. J. geophys. Res. 90, 11679–11688 (1985).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  4. Schlesinger, M. E. & Jiang, X. Climate Dynamics 3, 1–17 (1988).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  5. Schlesinger, M. E., Gates, W. L. & Han, Y. J. in Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Models (ed. Nihoul, I. C. J.) 447–478 (Elsevier, Amsterdam, 1985).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  6. Bryan, K., Manabe, S. & Spelman, M. J. J. phys. Oceanogr. 18, 851–867 (1988).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  7. Manabe, S., Bryan, K. & Spelman, M. J. J. phys. Oceanogr. (in the press).

  8. Washington, W. & Meehl, G. Clim. Dynamics 2, 1–38 (1989).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  9. Hansen, J. et al. J. geophys. Res. 93, 9341–9364 (1988).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Wetherald, R. T. & Manabe, S. J. atmos. Sci. 45, 1397–1415 (1988).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  11. Bryan, K. & Lewis, L. J. J. geophys. Res. 84, 2503–2517 (1979).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  12. Ramanathan, V. R., Cicerone, R. J., Singh, H. B. & Kiehl, J. T. J. geophys. Res. 90, 5547–5566 (1985).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Bryan, K. J. phys. Oceanogr. 14, 666–673 (1984).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  14. Manabe, S. & Stouffer, R. J. J. Clim. 1, 841–866 (1988).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  15. Manabe, S. & Stouffer, R. J. J. geophys. Res. 85, 5529–5524 (1980).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  16. Manabe, S. & Bryan, K. J. Geophys. Res. 90, 11689–11707 (1985).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  17. Broecker, W. S. Nature 329, 123–125 (1987).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  18. Thompson, S. L. & Schneider, S. H. Science 217, 1031–1033 (1982).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. Deacon, G. E. R. Discovery Rep. 15, 125–152 (1937).

    Google Scholar 

  20. Sverdrup, H. V. Johnson, M. W. & Fleming, R. H. The Oceans (Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, 1942).

    Google Scholar 

  21. Semtner, A. J. & Chervin, R. M. J. geophys. Res. 93, 15502–15522 (1988).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Stouffer, R., Manabe, S. & Bryan, K. Interhemispheric asymmetry in climate response to a gradual increase of atmospheric CO2. Nature 342, 660–662 (1989).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing